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First Plans for Dishing Out the War Dollars

October 24, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), who for months has favored forcing a troop withdrawal from Iraq but has been against blocking funding for the war, today came out with a plan for dealing with the President’s latest war funding request: give Bush his money on an installment plan in order to pressure him into changing his policy and wind down the war.

“We ought to… put that kind of pressure on the administration by taking a positive act, which is providing funding for the troops, and doing it for a period which requires revisiting this issue after the president reports to us next spring,” Levin (pictured at right) said at a press conference this morning.

On Monday President Bush requested $196.4 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout the 2008 fiscal year. Levin, who is teaming up with Appropriations Committee member Jack Reed (D-RI), said that withholding some of the money to be released (or not released) after a later vote “would put some pressure on the president to have a timetable to move the [troop withdrawal] process along with greater certainty.” Levin mentioned six months as an appropriate amount of time to aim for funding the war with an initial chunk of Bush’s request. That would mean that another set of Iraq votes would be slated for June of 2008, when presidential politics will be weighing heavily in the mix.

Since convening in January, Senate Democrats have been unable to muster the 60 votes needed to approve bills calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq at a date certain. Levin’s plan is probably the most likely way for the Senate to effect a change in the course of the war because it provides full funding for the troops — the essential factor in attracting the support of moderates from both parties — while not fully letting go of the purse strings. In other words, the Levin plan would ensure that if conditions in Iraq worsen or sentiments in the Senate change, there will be a vote, sooner rather than later, for the Senate to try to affect Bush’s policies.

At the presser this morning Levin also said that he hasn’t given up on trying to force a firm deadline for U.S. troops to be withdrawn. Levin and Reed have seen a proposal of theirs, which calls for a withdrawal to begin in 90 days and end in nine months, voted down twice in the Senate. The first time it was voted on, it fell eight votes short of breaking a Republican filibuster by a vote of 52-47. The second time it fared worse, failing by a vote of 47-47.

The big difference this time is that Levin is hoping to add the nine-month withdrawal requirement to the initial supplemental funding bill while it is still in the Appropriations Committee. That way, Senate Republicans would be the ones searching for 60 votes to pass an amendment to strip it out.

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